Chinese Medicine Board of Australia - Protected titles, endorsement and ‘holding out’
Look up a health practitioner


Check if your health practitioner is qualified, registered and their current registration status

Protected titles, endorsement and ‘holding out’

Under the National Law there are specific titles which are referred to as ‘protected titles’. This means that only those people who are registered, or endorsed, in a particular profession can use the titles associated with that profession.

The aim of title protection and registration is to protect the public by restricting the use of specified titles to practitioners who have been assessed as competent to deliver the specified services. The public knows that these titles are restricted.

The public relies on the words that health practitioners use and what they call themselves in order to identify their area of health care and their qualifications and authority. There are specific titles listed in section 113 of the National Law which are protected.

The protected titles for Chinese medicine are Chinese medicine practitioner, Chinese herbal dispenser, Chinese herbal medicine practitioner, Oriental medicine practitioner and acupuncturist (see s.113 of the National Law).

As with all regulated health professions the National Law does not specify the activities that require registration, only that the title itself is protected.

As a registrant with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia, you can call yourself a registered Chinese medicine practitioner. You can also refer to yourself using any of the protected titles mentioned above, in line with your division of registration.

Endorsement of registration is a mechanism under the National Law to identify practitioners who have additional qualifications recognised by specific Boards.

Endorsements are visible to the public, employers, and anyone else accessing the public Register of Practitioners.

The publication of an endorsement is not a separate specialist register. Nor is it based on experience derived during the course of a professional career. To be eligible to apply for endorsement, a practitioner must have additional training above the requirements for general registration in their profession.

Under Division 8 of the National Law there are five areas of endorsement of registration. Endorsement in relation to acupuncture is under s. 97 of the National Law.

While there are provisions under the National Law for endorsements, not all registered health professions have established standards for acupuncture endorsement.

Chinese medicine practices, such as acupuncture, can be undertaken by appropriately educated and competent health practitioners who are registered in professions other than Chinese medicine, when they have received endorsement from the profession for which they hold registration.

It is important in these instances the practitioners represent themselves, and are recognised, as being primarily a practitioner in the profession for which they hold registration. Endorsed practitioners can use the protected title acupuncturist, under the National Law.

For further information see the Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service.

The Chinese Medicine Board of Australia will continue to work with other Boards regarding setting standards for endorsement.

‘Holding out’ means to present yourself in a way that suggests to others that you are something or someone that you are not.

A person who is not a registered Chinese medicine practitioner, must not:

  • use any of these titles: Chinese medicine practitioner, acupuncturist, Chinese herbal medicine practitioner, Chinese herbal dispenser, or Oriental medicine practitioner; or 
  • claim to be registered under the National Law, or 
  • 'hold themselves out' as being registered under the National Law.

The National Law (see s.116 of the National Law) also prohibits unregistered persons knowingly or recklessly taking or using a title, name, symbol, word or description that, having regard to the circumstances in which it is taken or used, indicates or could be reasonably understood to indicate - the person is a health practitioner, or the person is authorised or qualified to practise in a health profession.

There are penalties for falsely using protected titles or holding yourself out to be a registered practitioner. Depending on the individual circumstances, a person may be investigated for holding themselves out, and prosecuted under the National Law.

Yes. ‘Holding out’ can also apply to registered health practitioners who claim, or may lead a reasonable person to believe that they are registered in a different division or profession than what they actually are.

This is also relevant in the context of making claims to be a specialist, see below.

For example, the National Law does not allow:

  • claiming to hold general registration with the Board when holding non practising registration, or 
  • holding yourself out to be a specialist Chinese medicine practitioner by advertising a specialist service.

No, as a Chinese medicine practitioner you cannot call yourself a specialist practitioner, or hold yourself out to be one.

While there are provisions for Boards to set up a national specialist register for their profession under the National Law, recognised specialties and specialist titles must be approved by Ministerial Council.

To date, Ministerial Council has approved specialties for the medical, dental and podiatry professions only.

Registered Chinese medicine practitioners must therefore take care in their use of professional titles. This will avoid misleading the public into believing that he or she is a specialist practitioner when they are not.

No, as a Chinese medicine practitioner you, your employer or a body corporate cannot:

  • advertise yourself as being a specialist practitioner, or 
  • advertise specialist Chinese medicine practitioner services.

There are offences under the National Law that prohibit persons from advertising themselves as specialists when they are not.

The Chinese Medicine Board of Australia Guidelines for advertising of a regulated health services is published on the website. The guidelines contain more information about advertising that Chinese medicine practitioners must be aware of, and to understand their obligations.

Section 6.4 of the Guidelines covers advertising of qualifications and titles. The definition of advertising is broad and covers printed and electronic media such as websites, letterhead and business cards.

Section 6.4.3 includes the following information on advertising qualifications and memberships:

Advertising qualifications or memberships may be useful in providing the public with information about experience and expertise but may be misleading or deceptive if patients or clients can interpret the advertisements readily to imply that the practitioner is more skilled or has greater experience than is the case.

Patients or clients are best protected when practitioners advertise only those qualifications that are:

    • approved for the purposes of registration, or
    • endorsement of registration, or
    • conferred by approved higher education providers (within the meaning of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 [Cwlth]), or 
    • conferred by an education provider that has been accredited by a government accreditation authority such as a government department.
  • The AHPRA website has more information, including FAQs and a fact sheet about advertising regulated health services under Legislation & Publications>AHPRA FAQ and Fact Sheets. 
  • Visit the Chinese Medicine Board website under Contact us to lodge an online enquiry form 
  • For registration enquiries: 1300 419 495 (within Australia) +61 3 8708 9001 (overseas callers)
Page reviewed 25/09/2013